Assigned Reading, Book Recommendations, Reading

Final Grade on Fall 2018 Term Self-Assigned Reading: B+ (Whaaaat? a B?!)

It will probably come as a surprise to no one that I was the student growing up who obsessed over grades–the only A- I ever got in my public school career was in 9th grade geography (and let’s be honest–it’s a fact that still rankles today as I feel it was undeserved). In college, I wasn’t *quite* as obsessive, but mostly just because when I finally got my first (and only) B in a Calculus III class, let’s just say I was relieved that it wasn’t a lot lower, which helped cure me a bit of my perfectionism towards grades.

My reading this term has been kind of a “feast or famine” thing–either I’m finishing 2-3 books a week, or I’m going 2 or 3 weeks without finishing anything at all. Considering that when I first brought the baby home, I was finishing 8-9 books a month because he was nursing around the clock, I guess it’s not too surprising that things have calmed down a bit in the past couple of months now that we’re in more of a routine. All told, I still ended up completely finishing 13 books this term, which is still better than I can say for past terms, so I guess I’m not in as much of a reading slump as I originally thought I was. Because of that feeling of being in a reading slump, however, it took me a looooong time to get into my assigned reading books for this term, and as you’ll see, it was the main reason why I haven’t finished one of them yet (simply because I procrastinated starting it until just before the Thanksgiving weekend, thinking that I would have “loads of time” over the holiday to read…ha ha ha ha ha ha ha).

But enough about grade obsessing and reading slumps–we have self-assigned reading to ‘fess up to today!

For a quick recap (in case you don’t want to go back to visit the original post where I outlined my self-assigned reading for this year), each of the three books I assign myself each “term” falls into one of the following categories:

  • a “heavy hitter” (aka, a book most people would agree is a “classic”)
  • a young adult award winner, or “teen star” (I used the Newbery awards as a guide)
  • a “power boost” book (one that was meant to stimulate personal growth in some way)

The Grading Breakdown:

* “hard hitter” book – 40% of course grade

* “teen star” book – 30% of grade

* “power boost” book– 30% of grade

The following are opportunities for extra credit:

* anything off another recommended reading list (+10% to grade)

* poetry, full book (+10% to grade)

* parenting books (+ 5% to grade)

* any book out of my reading comfort zone (+ 5% to grade)

(If you want to see what made last year’s assigned reading list + my final grades for each of the 4 terms, click here.)

***Note: You’ll notice the titles below are affiliate links if you click on them, which help support To Love and To Learn at no extra cost to you.

Assessment Breakdown of Fall Term Reading (8/27 – 11/25)

1. “Heavy Hitter” – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  • Total Number of Pages: 267
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 95
  • Percentage of Pages Completed: 35.6%
  • (Anticipated) Rating Awarded on Goodreads: Probably somewhere between 3 and 4 stars
  • Reasons for (Anticipated) Rating:
    • Although the futuristic world in this classic dystopia is super disturbing (as it’s supposed to be), the book itself is actually pretty readable compared to most classics, and when I have had time to sit down and read it, it’s been pretty easy to knock out around 30-40 pages without having to talk myself into it, which is always a good sign.
    • Based on readability alone, it’s tempting for me to say this book will likely lean towards getting 4 stars, but as I’m only just over a third into it, there’s still a LOT of chances to make me really dislike the book. In the end, the final rating will probably hinge on how well I feel the ending was done (as that’s always a big thing for me) and how much of an impact the book had on me in general.
    • As of now, I don’t think the book will warrant five stars, for two reasons–1) as readable as it has been so far, I doubt I’ll ever want to re-read it again (which is one of the criteria I often use to judge whether a book is five-star worthy), and 2) There are a lot of disturbing aspects of the futuristic society of the book, including a lot of strange sexual practices, which makes me hesitant to recommend the book far and wide, which is another criteria I often use to determine if a book deserves the highest rating.
    • This book (once I finish it) will also go towards helping to complete my 101 in 1001 goal to read five classics off of this list of 100 Most-Recommended Classics (which I need to update again, as I’ve read more titles off of it than currently show in that post).

2. “Teen Star” – Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

  • Total Number of Pages: 312
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 312
  • Percentage of Pages Read: 100%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 3.5 stars
  • Reasons for Rating Given:
    • The older I’ve gotten, the harder it is for me to be totally enthused about middle grade/young adult fiction like I used to be, as I’m no longer the target audience and as I now view everything as a parent/adult and not as a kid. It was because of this bias that this one got the middle-of-the-road rating that it did–while I could totally see the target audience LOVING this title, there were enough things about it that didn’t appeal to where I’m at in my life right now so that I just wasn’t that into it.
    • With that said, this one did have spunky, memorable characters (I’d say the characterization and the clever, funny dialogue were the two strong points of the book), and as I don’t read a ton of mysteries, it’s always kind of fun for me to visit the genre in a “safe” way (meaning that I can’t read mysteries published for adults because they freak me out too much, and I don’t do well with graphic descriptions of violence or gore).
    • I would hazard a guess that most kids in the middle grades (5th to maybe up to 8th) would probably love this title, and it would be a really fun one to read aloud if you’re looking for one to read with a kid that age.

3. “Power Boost” – Deep Work by Cal Newport

  • Total Number of Pages: 263
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 263
  • Percentage of Pages Read: 100%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 5 stars
  • Reasons for Rating Given:
    • As I wrote on my Goodreads review of this title, not all parts of this book might have been 5-star worthy (as there were some sections that dragged a bit or that weren’t as interesting), but the impact and concepts of the book definitely merited the rating. I definitely have plans to reread this one (or at least sections of it) in the future.
    • If you’re unfamiliar with the title, this book is all about how “deep work” is more necessary (yet more rare) in our world than ever before. It defines what exactly deep work is and is not, and it gives very specific suggestions on how you can fit more of it into your life.
    • Even though this stage of my life isn’t super conducive to me doing a lot of deep work (as it’s described in this book), I still got enough out of it that I can apply right now to my personal projects that require deeper thinking, even with two cute little ones constantly needing my attention and time.
    • This one’s a high recommend for anyone who works in any capacity that involves deeper thinking and more intense concentration, and I think it would make a pretty solid Christmas gift (which is how it ended up in our household!).

4. Extra Credit Opportunities

  • Total Number of Other Books Read During Term: 11
  • Number of Books Falling Under Extra Credit Categories: 2
  • Title of Extra Credit Book: Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
  • Category That Title Fulfills: Parenting Book
  • Extra Credit Percentage Awarded: +5%
  • Quick Thoughts:
    • After I put this one on my roundup of books that made me a better parent (as a title I wanted to read still), I figured I had no excuse to keep putting it off and reserved it at the library right away. In the end though, this title ended up being a mixed bag for me–while I got a lot out of certain sections (such as the part about how the French generally get their kids to sleep through the night at a much younger age than American parents get theirs to, or the sections on parental authority and allowing children more independence and freedom), I also found the tone through some sections to be pretty condescending toward all American parents, and there were some parts that just didn’t really interest me much and that I had to just kind of drag through. I’m definitely not sorry I read this one, but because of the reasons mentioned above, it ended up being a middle-of-the-road book for me.
    • My Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
  • Title of Extra Credit Book: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • Category That Title Fulfills: Anything off Another Recommended Reading List (this one came off the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die list)
  • Extra Credit Percentage Awarded: +10%
  • Quick Thoughts:
    • This was my book club selection for when I hosted my book club back in October, and oh my goodness, IT WAS SO GOOD!!! The rich sense of place and the creepy vibe throughout and the twist at the end that I TOTALLY did not see coming made this one a real standout for this year. It’s pretty hard for me to award five stars to a book, but this one definitely merited it. For those unfamiliar with the book (or with the old movie that was based on it), this is the story of a young woman who enters into a marriage somewhat on a whim with a man who had recently lost his first wife. As they return from their honeymoon to his estate, it becomes clear immediately to the second wife (who is never named) that the first Mrs. De Winters (Rebecca) still has a strong hold on the place. I highly recommend this one for those who haven’t given it a shot yet.
    • My Rating on Goodreads: 5 stars

Final Grade on Fall Term Assigned Reading: B+ (89.24%)

(14.24% HH + 30% TS + 30% PB + 15% EC = 89.24%)

And, in case you’re wondering what’s on the docket for the new winter term:

My Self-Assigned Reading for the 2018-2019 School Year

Term 2 (11/26 – 1/27)

*HH – Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

*TS – Doll Bones by Holly Black

*PB – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss


Have you read any of the titles mentioned in today’s post? Am I going to like the ending of Brave New World? Let’s talk books!

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